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Ellan Vannin

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Laxey Wheel – just one of many great sights on the Isle of Man

Yes, I know that it’s quite a while since Caroline and I visited Isle of Man, but there’s been quite a few adverts and programmes on television over the last couple of weeks here in the UK highlighting the island and its many charms.

As well as coverage of the iconic TT Races over the last fortnight – the build-up, the classic races of recent and not-so-recent years, profiles of current riders and legends such as Carl Fogarty and Steve Hislop, there’s been segments shot on the island in programmes fronted by bike nut Henry ColeFind It, Fix It, Drive It on More 4 and The Motorbike Show on ITV4.

It’s been a while since I last rode a motorbike (1975 to be exact, around the back lanes near Glenridding in the Lake District), but I suspect that now would not be a good time to give it another go thanks to some small balance problems after having that stroke in 2004…

Our journey to Isle of Man started with a train ride to Liverpool and a wander down to the Hampton By Hilton hotel once we arrived. After checking in, we headed out to explore the area surrounding the hotel.

There had been a small festival taking place on that Sunday, but it was winding down as it was nearing 6pm, so we contented ourselves by just strolling around and seeing what was out there. As we’d not had lunch we were on a mission as we were beginning to feel the need – the need to feed!

The pub we’d spotted earlier in the day had already stopped serving food, so a nearby group of restaurants looked very, very tempting. Yes, they were chains, but by that time we were passed caring…

No tables were available at our preferred choice, so we ended up going to another pizza place a few metres away. Calamari was tried for the first time, but after polishing off the bowl, Caroline and I came to the same conclusion – what was all the fuss about?

Our respective pasta and pizza courses were more impressive, as were the desserts and the coffee that rounded the meal off. Yes, it was a budget busting bill, but hey, we were hungry and that’s all that counted at the time we ordered the food, wine and beer.

After a good night’s sleep, breakfast really set us up for the day, but not in the way we expected. Yes, Caroline went for the light option and I opted for the full English, but we ended up making different coffee choices.

I’m not a fan of machine coffee, but I tried a black coffee with some cold milk and it didn’t impress. The next cup though did hit the spot, largely because I hit the Espresso button three times before adding a smidgen of milk. Not perfection, but a distinct improvement on that first cup!

As we were getting ready to head back upstairs for our bags before checking out, one of the restaurant staff invited us to help ourselves to croissants to take away with us. Whilst we grasped a couple each for lunch, the lady offered us a couple of paper bags and napkins to stash the croissants in.

So there is something to the concept of getting a free lunch!

Once we’d retrieved our bags and checked out, it was time to head towards the sea cat Manannan for our shortish hop across the Irish Sea.

One of the first things we noticed after landing at Douglas was the friendliness on Isle Of Man, starting at the aptly named Welcome Centre when we sought and bought our travel and heritage smart cards.

This friendliness continued as people stopped to ask whether they could help us as we made our way to our hotel, searched for eating places and started to use those smart cards. It was our own politeness though that bagged us the last two seats on the Manx Electric Railway between Douglas and Laxey the following morning.

We’d normally leave such an impressive sight such as Laxey Wheel until near the end of our trip, but we had seen the ten day weather forecast for the island and it did not look good. So Laxey it was for the first part of the day out and the summit of Snaefell the rest.

Caroline had seen Laxey Wheel before on a previous visit to the island thirty years before our visit, but I’d only seen it on Coast, World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides (that man Henry Cole again…) or in photographs.

Once seen, Caroline’s insistence we head there was fully justified.

You can see the wheel just from the entrance gate and there were many people who did just that, but got not further than the gate. Once inside the gate, you get the feeling for the scale of the wheel known as Lady Isabella and for the site beyond the impressive water feature.

After a coffee in a nearby cafe and lunch in the Laxey station cafe, the next phase of the day kicked in – a ride to the summit of Snaefell and back on the Snaefell Mountain Railway via The Bungalow, just one of the many notable places on the TT Mountain Course.

Walking around on the summit brought some impressive views as were luckier with the weather than Julia Bradbury and a film crew had been whilst filming a programme segment on Snaefell for ITV.

We had been lucky with the weather, but had come prepared with mountain jackets in our day sacks and by wearing fleeces and walking trousers rather than the t-shirts and shorts favoured by some fellow explorers.

We weren’t that lucky the following day though when we visited Peel – those waterproofs did come out of the packs. Caroline made good use of the heritage aspect of those smart cards whilst I hit the motorcycle museum, had a kipper bap for lunch and sheltered in cafes so I could rest my left leg that was complaining after being cramped on the trams the previous day.

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Thursday’s visit to Port Erin on the steam railway was a delight. Fine weather, a good lunch next to the beach and plenty of fresh air made the day, which was just as well as the weather closed in for the rest of the week.

We did make it to Castletown and Ramsey, but the rain gods had the final word on those days. Saving grace? Crossing the TT finishing line  – on a service bus to Douglas rather than on a high powered motorcycle!

This is just a taster about Isle Of Man. There will be more over the next couple of weeks when I have days off. We will be returning to Isle Of Man, but in the summer months and we will take the car so we can do the whole of the Mountain Course and explore the parts we didn’t get to…

It won’t be over the TT weeks or when there’s other racing taking place. These will be watched at home if for no other reason than we’ve seen what the hotel rates are for those particular times when fans head to Isle Of Man to watch the racing and their heroes at play…

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Man bags…

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Yes, it’s Laxey Wheel – again!

This was taken on a very fine day on Isle of Man, but it was the only one…

The packing for our visit was a last minute affair. I’d been tracking the 10 day forecast for Douglas and surrounding area and as the departure date loomed, so did the prospect of rain (and plenty of it!).

Things looked good for the first three days of the break, so we had to balance the packing between clothes for sunny days, clothes for overcast days and for days when there was the potential for heavy rain.

We’d also caught the tail end of a TV programme on Isle of Man and had seen Julia Bradbury sheltering besides the trig point on the summit of Snaefell and trying to do a piece to camera about the weather conditions being experienced.

Words weren’t needed, because the visuals provided evidence of what Julia and the television crew were experiencing!

Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if we were pointing the car towards Liverpool or Heysham for the ferry to Douglas, but we weren’t.

We’d booked rail tickets to Liverpool, seats on the Manannan sea cat to Douglas and were going to traipse around the island using a mix of a five day Heritage Travel Card and feet.

We were also using a hotel/guest house mix of accommodation and were eating out, so there was a need to take some smarter clothes as well of those that could be used as a layering system during the more inclement weather conditions.

There was also one more thing to consider – after reading up on the reviews of the guest house we were using as our base in Douglas, the potential for washing and wearing was going to be restricted to undies rather than shirts, t-shirts or fleeces.

The main bags were our usual weapons of choice – 2013 vintage Osprey Farpoint 40 travel packs, but as these were packed to capacity, second bags were brought into play.

In Caroline’s case the second bag was her handbag for the trip, a brightly coloured small size Healthy Back Bag. In my case, it was my Rohan Stowaway 20, a packable day sack that normally is packed  into the Osprey and brought into play as and when it’s needed.

We did get creative with our choice of clothing and footwear for the trip and whilst we would have busted any size and weight restrictions on a budget airline for instance, we took a good look at our clothing and kit and put together a mix that covered all eventualities.

Both my jacket and my windproof fleece gilet came from The North Face. The jacket is a longer length HyVent waterproof with a hood that goes into the collar, has pit zips for ventilation and the kind of pockets that will take guidebooks, bus timetables, camera, iPad Mini and my reading specs.

The gilet is a ten year old TNF Windwall with a chest pocket for the phone and handwarmer pockets that will take the camera and specs case.

Tops came from a couple of sources. Crew neck fleeces and zip necks came from Rohan, as did a couple of Core Silver t-shirts, Stratum long sleeved polo shirts and a couple of merino wool based t-shirts.

These, coupled with a Peter Storm merino wool long sleeved zip neck formed the basis of the layering system employed on the trip to combat the expected bad weather.

Rohan Stronghold shirt also came into play as a wind shirt and a secure place for my passport that may have been required for ID purposes.

Two out of the four pairs of trousers were the usual suspects – Rohan Goas– and these were complemented by a couple of pairs of Craghoppers Kiwi style cargo pants.

Socks and underwear were largely Rohan, but sock choices also included a couple of pairs of M&S trainer socks with a silver content and a couple of pairs of Bridgedale Light Hikers for the days when boots were needed rather than trainers.

And footwear? One pair of Merrell Mesa Ventilator shoes were packed whilst a five year old pair of Hi Tec casual/hiking boots were worn en-route and on various days out.

Whilst the mix of clothing and footwear was much more than I would normally pack fora trip, it worked and coped with all that was thrown at it – sunshine, wind, rain, squalls and downright filthy weather.

The wash kit and meds combo was the usual one with Lush shower gel, tea tree oil (good as a shaving oil IMHO), sample size toothpaste (courtesy of the help yourself boxes in my dentist’s) along with a disposable razor and my ViaSonic battery powered toothbrush.

With a Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant thrown in for good measure, all I needed to buy locally was a can of Lynx body spray and some baby wipes.

Not convinced about the need for the baby wipes? Trying eating a freshly cooked kipper bap from the kiosk down by the pier in Peel or a bacon buttie down by the beach in Port Erin and you will be convinced about how useful these things can be!

My main bag also had the paperwork – rail tickets, ferry tickets, hotel booking info, the paper only guidebook and travel insurance documents.

Why travel insurance documents for Isle of Man?

Although there’s an agreement regarding health care between the Isle of Man and mainland Britain, there’s no repatriation agreement between the two, so any repatriation after a medical emergency or an accident, has to be covered by travel insurance.

The other thing that needs to be taken into account is that the EHIC card isn’t valid on Isle of Man. Why? Because the Isle of Man isn’t in the EU

But what about Caroline’s bag? By and large, the contents of her bag reflected my choices, even though we hadn’t really talked about what should be taken.

Her Nike Gore-tex came into play along with her TNF Windwall jacket, a recently purchased Rohan Trail hoodie, a zip neck fleece from the same brand and another zip neck fleece from Craghoppers.

A couple of Rohan Stria tops were also packed along with merino base layers, Ultra Silver camisoles, a few pairs of M&S socks, two pairs of Endura cycling socks, Rohan Trailblazer trousers and a pair of that brand’s travel jeans. Footwear? Merrell trainers and two pairs of Ecco Biom shoes.

Did everything work? Yes, is the answer to that one.

We both had more clothing than we would normally have on a break when we’re not using the car to get around, but that was down to the potential weather conditions we were due to face. Out of the six full days we had on the island, only two were rain free.

Was everything used? Just about…

I had one t-shirt that wasn’t worn and a bit of washing to do once we got home, but that was a thankfully minimal task given the properties of the items taken with us and the decision to stick with a couple of colour pallets in the clothing choices.

We did forget one thing though. Weighing those bags!

Man bags…

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A very fine day on Isle of Man, but we were heading home!

The packing for our visit to Isle of Man was definitely a last minute affair.

I’d been tracking the 10 day forecast for Douglas and surrounding area for a week or so and as the departure date loomed, so did the prospect of rain (and plenty of it!).

Things did look good for the first three days of the nine day break, so we had to balance the packing between clothes for sunny days, clothes for overcast days and clothes for days when there was the potential for heavy rain.

We’d also caught the tail end of a TV programme about walking on Isle of Man and had seen Julia Bradbury sheltering besides the trig point on the summit of Snaefell and trying to do a piece to camera about the weather conditions being experienced.

Words weren’t actually needed, because the visuals provided enough evidence of what she and the television crew were experiencing!

Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if we were pointing the car towards Liverpool or Heysham to catch the ferry to Douglas, but we weren’t.

We’d booked rail tickets to Liverpool, seats on the Manannan sea cat to Douglas and were then heading around the island using a mix of a five day Heritage Travel Card and feet.

We were also using a hotel/guest house mix of accommodation and were eating out rather than using hostels and self catering facilities, so there was a need to take some smarter clothes as well of those that could be used as a layering system during the more inclement weather conditions.

There was also one more thing to consider – after reading up on the reviews of the guest house we were using as our base in Douglas, the potential for washing and wearing was going to be restricted to undies rather than shirts, t-shirts or fleeces.

The main bags were our usual weapons of choice – 2013 vintage Osprey Farpoint 40 travel packs, but as these were packed to capacity, second bags were brought into play.

In Caroline’s case the second bag was her handbag for the trip, a brightly coloured small size Healthy Back Bag. In my case, it was my Rohan Stowaway 20, a packable day sack that normally is packed  into the Osprey and brought into play as and when it’s needed.

We did get creative with our choice of clothing and footwear for the trip and whilst we would have busted any size and weight restrictions on a budget airline for instance, we took a good look at our travel and outdoor clothing and kit and put together a mix that covered all eventualities.

Both my jacket and my windproof fleece gilet came from The North Face. The jacket is a longer length HyVent waterproof one with a hood that goes into the collar, has pit zips for ventilation and the kind of pockets that will take guidebooks, bus timetables, camera, iPad Mini and my reading specs too.

The gilet is a ten year old TNF Windwall with a chest pocket for the phone and handwarmer pockets that will take the camera and specs case.

Tops came from a couple of sources. Crew neck fleeces and zip necks came from Rohan, as did a couple of Core Silver t-shirts, Stratum long sleeved polo shirts and a couple of merino wool based t-shirts.

These, coupled with a Peter Storm merino wool long sleeved zip neck formed the basis of the layering system employed on the trip to combat the expected bad weather.

A Rohan Stronghold shirt also came into play as a wind shirt and a secure place for my passport that may have been required for ID purposes.

Two out of the four pairs of trousers were the usual suspects – Rohan Goas – and these were complemented by a couple of pairs of Craghoppers Kiwi style cargo pants.

Socks and underwear were largely Rohan, but sock choices also included a couple of pairs of M&S trainer socks with a silver content and a couple of pairs of Bridgedale Light Hikers for the days when boots were needed rather than trainers.

And footwear? One pair of Merrell Mesa Ventilator shoes were packed whilst a five year old pair of Hi Tec casual/hiking boots were worn en-route and on various days out.

Whilst the mix of clothing and footwear was much more than I would normally pack for a week to ten days away, it worked and coped with all that was thrown at it – sunshine, wind, rain, squalls and downright filthy weather.

The wash kit and meds combo was the usual one with Lush shower gel, tea tree oil (good as a shaving oil IMHO), sample size toothpaste (courtesy of the help yourself boxes in my dentist’s) along with a disposable razor and my ViaSonic battery powered toothbrush.

With a Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant thrown in for good measure, all I needed to buy locally was a can of Lynx body spray and some baby wipes.

Not convinced about the need for the baby wipes? Trying eating a freshly cooked kipper bap from the kiosk down by the pier in Peel or a bacon buttie down by the beach in Port Erin and you will be convinced about how useful these things can be!

My main bag also had the paperwork – rail tickets, ferry tickets, hotel booking info, the paper only guidebook and travel insurance documents.

Why travel insurance documents for Isle of Man?

Although there’s an agreement regarding health care between the Isle of Man and mainland Britain, there’s no repatriation agreement between the two, so any repatriation after a medical emergency or an accident, has to be covered by travel insurance.

The other thing that needs to be taken into account is that the EHIC card isn’t valid on Isle of Man. Why? Because the Isle of Man isn’t in the EU

But what about Caroline’s bag? By and large, the contents of her bag reflected my choices, even though we hadn’t really talked about what should be taken.

Her Nike Pac-Lite Gore-tex came into play along with her TNF Windwall jacket, a recently purchases lightweight Rohan hoodie, a zip neck fleece from the same brand and another zip neck fleece from Craghoppers.

A couple of Rohan Stria tops were also packed along with merino base layers, Ultra Silver camisoles, a few pairs of M&S socks,two pairs of Endura cycling socks, her Rohan Trailblazer trousers and a pair of their travel jeans. Footwear? Merrell trainers and two pairs of Ecco Biom shoes.

Did everything work? Yes, is the answer to that one.

We both had more clothing than we would normally have on a break when we’re not using the car to get around, but that was down to the potential weather conditions we were due to face. Out of the six full days we had on the island, only two were rain free.

Was everything used? Just about…

I had one t-shirt that wasn’t worn and a bit of washing to do once we got home, but that was a thankfully minimal task given the properties of the items taken with us and the decision to stick with a couple of colour pallets in the clothing choices.

We did forget one thing though. Weighing those bags!

Three legged race…

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Laxey Wheel

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One of the little trains that helped inspire a certain tank engine…

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Sea, sun and a sandwich by the beach – Port Erin

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And the last day in Douglas

The term Three Legged Race was our name for the basic plan for our recent visit to Isle Of Man.

The decision to head there was made at relatively short notice as Caroline and I had a two week break coming up, but hadn’t planned anything.

I’d held up a road book with a circle indicating four hours driving time from Wisepacking Towers, but wasn’t expecting Caroline picking out Isle Of Man as a destination for this upcoming trip.

By close of play two days later, we’d got return train travel booked to Liverpool, a night in Liverpool before the outward ferry trip, two return seats on the fast cat running between Liverpool and Douglas, , seven nights in Douglas, found out about smart cards for use on our travels and made sure that travel insurance was also in place.

With no motor sport or other festivals taking place over our visit, we did have to amuse ourselves, but we’d got a few things sussed.

Some came from the only guidebook we could find, some of it came from the Tourist Board’s brochure and website, but there was also some prior knowledge coming into play too as Caroline had made two visits to Isle Of Man about thirty five years ago.

More to come over the next month or so!